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Russia says Alexey Navalny is in ‘generally good health’ after his team voices concerns

Moscow City Court/TASS

Russia’s prison service has said Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny is in “generally good health” after the activist’s team expressed concern about his physical condition and said they were denied access to see him.

Navalny has submitted two applications to Russian prison officials through his lawyers requesting access to a doctor of his choice and to ask authorities to stop alleged “torture by sleep deprivation.”

On Thursday, the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) said that he and other prisoners in the country’s Vladimir region, where Navalny is being held, received medical examinations on Wednesday at the inmates’ request, according to state media outlet TASS. The anti-corruption activist is “in generally good and stable health,” the FSIN statement said.

But Navalny’s account greatly differs.

His team on Thursday published his applications for medical treatment online, with an accompanying message that said: “We demand that the doctor’s access to Alexey be immediately ensured, that his treatment should be started, and the torture by sleep deprivation should be stopped.”

In his requests, Navalny said his condition has worsened and that “severe pain has spread to my right leg which has lost sensation from the calf downwards.”

“I’m having difficulty walking. A classical development of a disease associated with a pinched nerve in the absence of proper treatment can be observed,” he said.

Navalny requested that the prison “give me the opportunity to undergo the treatment recommended to me by the specialist A.N. Barinov.”

Later on Thursday in a YouTube livestream, Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s chief of staff, said his legal team plans to visit Navalny every day due to health concerns.

Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, also made a direct plea to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, demanding her husband’s immediate release.

An outspoken government critic and anti-corruption crusader, Navalny has long been a thorn in Putin’s side, raising concerns for his safety in the country. The activist nearly died after he was poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent last August.

‘Regime measures’

A joint investigation by CNN and the group Bellingcat implicated the Russian Security Service (FSB) in Navalny’s poisoning. Russia denies involvement in the poisoning, but several Western officials and Navalny himself have openly blamed the Kremlin. Navalny returned to Russia in January from a five-month stay in Germany, where he had been recovering.

Navalny’s legal team told CNN on Wednesday that he had complained in the last week about back pain and on Tuesday started to feel numbness in one of his legs.

Vadim Kobzev, one of the activist’s lawyers, told CNN that he and his colleague Olga Mikhailova were waiting at penal colony No.2 in Pokrov in the Vladimir region to see Navalny for a pre-scheduled visit on Wednesday.

After a few hours of waiting they were not allowed to see him. The pair were told that the visit had been canceled due to “regime measures.”

“What is behind this, we do not know,” Kobzev said.

“We demand that we should be able to see him in order to be sure what his state of health is. [Last] Friday, he was examined by a neurologist, the diagnosis was never given to him after that.”

The lawyer added: “He was prescribed two ibuprofen tablets a day. It all started with his spine, [on Tuesday] he said that his leg was starting to feel numb. Whether the problems with the leg are related to the spine, not being a doctor, I cannot tell you.”

Navalny’s lawyers said they had got into the penal colony on Thursday, but it is unclear whether they will get to see the activist

Navalny was jailed earlier this year for violating the probation terms of a 2014 case in which he received a suspended sentence of three and a half years.

A Moscow court took into account the 11 months Navalny had already spent under house arrest as part of the decision and replaced the remainder of the suspended sentence with a prison term last month.

Kobzev stressed on Wednesday that it was crucial for Navalny’s lawyers to meet him to check on his well-being.

“We believe that, first of all, we must see him, and secondly, he needs to be examined by a normal civil specialist who will diagnose and will prescribe the treatment that he can undergo,” he said, adding that at least one of the activist’s lawyers see him every day.

Maria Pevchikh, head of Navalny’s anti-corruption fund investigations unit, took to Twitter to voice her concerns about his health.

“This is the first time that Navalny’s lawyers were not allowed to see him on a scheduled day. Alexey’s exact whereabouts are currently unknown,” she wrote.

“FSIN said that Navalny had undergone a medical examination in the colony and his health was found to be ‘satisfactory,'” Navalny’s press secretary Kira Yarmysh tweeted. “In Omsk they also said so,” she added, referencing the time when Navalny was in a coma following his poisoning in 2020.

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